London, 31 March 2021 – With its current "Wool with a butt" campaign, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS is calling on the fashion industry to stop using mulesed wool. In the painful procedure called mulesing, large pieces of skin are removed from the buttocks of Merino lambs a few weeks old using scissors and without anaesthesia so that flies cannot settle there. FOUR PAWS investigated 38 international fashion brands from the areas of high and fast fashion as well as outdoor clothing and sportswear for their efforts to exclude mulesed wool from their product range. The results are sobering. While outdoor brands, such as Patagonia, lead the ranking, high-fashion labels in particular show little or no interest in animal welfare. Bringing up the rear, Max Mara and Escada have neither taken steps to phase out nor are they willing to talk.
Jumpers, scarves, suits, sportswear and cloth nappies: The processing of merino wool is versatile and not seasonal. The current ranking by FOUR PAWS evaluates a total of 38 international fashion brands on the use of non-mulesed wool. The most consistent implementation is in the outdoor sector, where the labels such as Patagonia leads the ranking. Some brands such as H&M or Esprit have already publicly committed to eliminating mulesed wool in the next few years and already offer certified non-mulesed products. Seven fashion manufacturers, including Calvin Klein, Vero Moda and C&A, have fortunately already committed to a phase-out over the course of the brand check with FOUR PAWS in advance. Additionally, UK names such as John Lewis, M&S, Burberry, Superdry and Next have either publicly committed to fully phasing out mulesed wool or have spoken out against the practice. But they are the leaders in the pack as unfortunately, almost half of the brands still lack clear objectives to reject the cruel and long outdated method.
"We are calling on fashion brands to take responsibility for the health of sheep throughout the supply chain. This includes publicly committing to switch to alternative materials and/or certified non-mulesed wool in the coming years. This is the only way to end the suffering of millions of lambs," says Rebecca Picallo Gil, Wool Campaign Manager at FOUR PAWS.
Over 75 percent of wool exports and as much as 90 percent of the popular fine merino wool used for the global fashion industry come from Australia - the only country in the world where the method of mulesing is still practised. The problem with the overbred Merino sheep is the many folds of skin that are particularly susceptible to blowfly infestation. If left untreated, this can lead to severe wounds and even death of the sheep. This is why a very painful method was developed in 1920 to reduce the risk of blowfly infestation. In mulesing, large pieces of skin are cut out of two to ten-week-old lambs with sharp scissors without anaesthesia. For the lambs, this means not only fear and stress, but above all great pain that can last for days.
Painless alternatives available
Every year, more than ten million lambs fall victim to this brutal and outdated method. Yet alternatives have long been practised.
“Consumers can decide on non-mulesed clothing. There are strict certifications for this, like the RWS (Responsible Wool Standard). On the producer side, there are also solutions. Already more than 3,000 farmers in Australia show that it is possible to switch to sheep species that are naturally more resistant to parasites. Such a switch takes only two to five years. Therefore, FOUR PAWS calls on fashion brands to consistently exclude mulesed wool from their supply chains within the next five years and to exclusively process alternative materials and/or certified non-mulesed wool,"
says Rebecca Picallo Gil, Wool Campaign Manager at FOUR PAWS.